The hidden feminism of Audrey Hepburn

In conversations about the women of Old Hollywood, two old stereotypes persist: Katharine Hepburn was the feminist, and Audrey Hepburn — who would have been 85 on Sunday — was the style icon. 

Katharine was a working woman who wore pants — a "strong female presence within traditional boy-girl stories." Audrey, meanwhile, was the waif with "gamine yet feminine chic," who launched Hollywood's obsession with skinniness.

When Audrey's father added "Hepburn" to the family's surname, he unknowingly kicked off eternal comparisons between his daughter and Katharine (who was unrelated). Such comparisons have obscured the fact that Audrey Hepburn had her own powerful relationship with feminism. She was a diminutive powerhouse who repeatedly struggled against patriarchy.

It's no wonder that today, Audrey Hepburn's most noted attribute is her style. She's the woman who brought Edith Head's fashions to life, and she was the muse of Hubert de Givenchy. Audrey made pants a female fashion statement, and her love of flats gave women an out from towering stilettos.

But she was always at odds with her fame.

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